O'Brien Accused Of Cheating Probation

By Gary Grado
East Valley Tribune [Phoenix AZ]
Downloaded May 6, 2004

The judge who sentenced Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien to 1,000 hours of community service told the probation department Tuesday not to investigate an allegation that the former Catholic leader is cheating on his hours.

A relative of a worker at Huger Mercy Living Center, 2345 W. Orangewood Ave. in Phoenix, phoned the allegation into the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, saying O'Brien is logging six hours when he shows up there for only an hour. County Attorney Richard Romley announced the allegation Tuesday and complained about the lack of oversight of O'Brien's probation.

But no formal complaint has been submitted to the probation department, and any investigation now would be premature because O'Brien's logs are due quarterly, said J.W. Brown, a Maricopa County Superior Court spokeswoman.

"There's nothing to investigate," Brown said.

Logs that O'Brien has submitted so far show the most he has ever claimed at Huger Mercy Living Center was three hours, said Mike Goss, spokesman for the county Adult Probation Department.

Romley said he will pass on the allegations to probation.

"My point is, it is very difficult for the court to provide adequate oversight when you have the person doing the reporting, deciding where to go without probation really being in control of that process," Romley said. "Historically, probation always says you shall go to hospice, you shall go to Good Sam, you shall go to St. Joseph's, and they check with them to see if they were there."

Judge Stephen Gerst set up O'Brien's probation differently from others' in that the bishop keeps track of his own hours and chooses where he wants to serve, Goss said. Normally, probationers do their community service at agencies that contract with the county and the time is closely monitored.

But Gerst told the probation department not to strictly monitor O'Brien, Goss said.

In a statement released Tuesday, O'Brien said he has been in frequent contact with the probation offices, and they have been "cooperative."

"I firmly and categorically deny the county attorney's allegations, based on phone calls that I misreported my community service hours," he said. "I believe that the visits I have made have been satisfying to the sick and the elderly and to me."

A jury found O'Brien guilty Feb. 17 of leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Gerst sentenced O'Brien March 26 to three years' probation in which he is required to perform 1,000 hours of community service tending to the sick, dying and disabled


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